The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 19, 2013

‘He knows we’re on the right track’

Holgorsen says he still has support of AD Oliver Luck

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— Following West Virginia’s loss at Kansas on Saturday — one that broke a 27-game Big 12 losing streak for the Jayhawks — many Mountaineer fans have anxiously awaited a comment from athletic director Oliver Luck on the state of the football program, which has now won just six of its last 19 games.

Luck still hasn’t broken his silence, but head coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday during his weekly press conference he’s confident he has the full support of his boss, who hired him to replace Bill Stewart following the 2010 season.

“We visit a lot,” said Holgorsen, who’s now 21-16 at WVU. “He’s my boss, so we talk a good bit. He understands where we’re at and where the program is at. He understands what it takes to be able to get better, and we’re working hard on that.

“It’s pretty important,” said Holgorsen of having that support from the top. “He’s a football guy. He understands what it takes to win. He understands what it takes to get better, and he knows we’re on the right track.”

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What will it take for WVU to get back to the level of the not-so-distant past, when it won three BCS bowl games from 2006-2012? Holgorsen said it starts with recruiting.

“This would be my fourth recruiting class,” he said of the new group of Mountaineers, who will sign in February. “The first was three-quarters done before I got here. The second one was half done selling the Big East, and the second half we could start talking about the Big 12 for the first time. Last year was 100 percent talking about the Big 12, and this year, if we meet our quota of 25, then we’re over our scholarship limit. That is the first time that’s ever happened.

“The depth is building. The numbers are getting right. We’re to the point where we’ll have a full roster for the first time since I’ve been here.”

The next step, Holgorsen said, is upgrading facilities. His first priority, the weight room, has been upgraded, and now he’s focused on meeting rooms and practice fields.

“You have to be able to meet appropriately, which we can’t,” he said. “And you have to be able to practice appropriately, which we can’t.”

Holgorsen wants to see turf put down on the practice fields, which have been basically unused because the grass, he said, can’t hold up to the climate and the use.

“We have the space, and we use that practice field six times per year,” he said. “What are we doing? You shouldn’t have to practice on your game field. Nobody else does.”

The $9 million Caperton Indoor Facility, a 90-yard FieldTurf practice facility dedicated in 1998, also goes mostly unused, and Holgorsen said there’s really no way to transform it in a way that will meet the program’s needs.

“You’d have to blow it up,” he said. “If you want to use it the way people want to be able to use your indoor facility, then safety is key. You need runoff, you need proper length and if you want to do the kicking game in there, then you need it to be a little higher.

“It’s dysfunctional. We use it for some offseason stuff, but it needs to be a bit more functional.”

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Holgorsen also discussed the team’s lack of effort on the road at Kansas Saturday, saying the performance was due, in part, to a carryover effect from the disappointing 47-40 overtime loss to Texas the week before.

“The Texas game beat us twice,” he said. “I talked about it not happening, but it did. Why? You guys can keep pointing the finger at me. That’s what my job is. I didn’t reach them. We didn’t get them back, and that’s on me. I don’t mind saying it.”

Holgorsen said he was surprised by his team’s performance, because it was a problem he hadn’t seen before.

“It was the first time all year that we didn’t play with the effort and energy that it takes to win games,” he explained. “There have been losses where I’ve been comfortable with it as long as it doesn’t have to do with effort. If we lose because of effort, that’s where I get in a bad spot. And I saw that for the first time on Saturday.”

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Holgorsen said with no game on Saturday, this week will be used mainly for player development and the coaching staff will try to get in a lot of work for the younger Mountaineers, making up for the practice time that will be missed by not going to a bowl game.

Preparation for the Nov. 30 finale against Iowa State, a 4 p.m. kickoff in Morgantown, will begin in full next week.

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.